College of the Canyons hosted a virtual conference with a panel of experts and deputies from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station regarding domestic violence and how to find safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Experts from the Child and Family Center along with the COC Student Health and Wellness/Mental Health Center spoke to members of the community via Zoom about myths and stigmas around domestic violence, while Capt. Justin Diez from the SCV Sheriff’s Station offered resources to help people who are dealing with abuse during the ongoing pandemic.
“I can’t speak for the department as a whole, but in Santa Clarita, we’ve seen an uptrend in domestic violence calls since March,” said Diez. “It was going down in January and February, but started going back up, which has been a big concern of ours.”
Because October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, COC held the conference, which focused on myths and stigmas around domestic violence, and resources available for those who may be experiencing domestic abuse.
Experts on the topic of domestic violence also discussed how the biggest misconception around domestic abuse is that it only includes physical harm. Verbal, mental and cyber abuse can have just as much of a negative effect as physical abuse, said Leah Parker, outreach specialist for the SCV Child & Family Center.
“Bruises will fade and broken bones will heal, but the mental part of the trauma can stay because something can trigger it out of nowhere,” said Parker. “It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not physical, so it’s not that bad’ — but yes, it can be that bad.”
Other myths include widely held beliefs, such as: only economically disadvantaged people are abused; people can just leave their abusers easily; and women are the primary targets for domestic abuse, which was highlighted by Diez.
“In enforcement, it’s rare to see men come forward and when they do sometimes they back away once an investigation gets going or if the district attorney gets involved,” said Diez. “They tend to shy away so we see that (stigma) on the enforcement side as well.”
In order to make people feel comfortable to report their abusers, Larry Schallart, of the COC Student Health & Wellness/Mental Health Center, said people who don’t experience abuse need to recognize it’s something that happens not at the fault of the victim, which in turn can help victims feel empowered to report or leave their abusers.
The conference concluded with tips from Diez on what to do if someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, and information on the resources provided by the SCV Sheriff’s Station in a domestic abuse situation.
“It’s up to victims to report the abuse themselves, but definitely encourage (people you may know) to make a report,” said Diez. “Whether it be domestic violence or sexual assault, it doesn’t matter what it is.”
Anyone experiencing domestic violence can report the abuse to the SCV Sheriff’s Station by walking into the station at 23740 Magic Mountain Parkway, Santa Clarita, or by calling 661-255-1121. Free legal assistance for domestic abuse victims can be found by calling 800-433-6251. The 24-Hour Crisis Hotline can be reached at 661-259-4357.